When you're having a heart attack, minutes matter. Just ask Lowell resident David Nowak. On an October night three years ago, he started experiencing arm pain and what he thought was heartburn.
"It got worse when I'd lie down," he recalls. "So I stood up for most of the night and slept about an hour."
The next morning, at the construction site where he was installing vinyl siding, his arm pain would worsen as he took heavy boxes off the truck. When he did easier work, the pain subsided.
"But an hour or two later, I was sweating drops like baseballs," Nowak says. "So I had a friend drive me to Lowell General."
When Nowak arrived at the Emergency Department and described his symptoms, the team sprang into action. "They took off my clothes, shaved my chest and hooked me up to some machines," he says. "Then a doctor came in and said, 'You're having a heart attack,' and they rushed me off to the Cardiac Catheterization Lab. It was 15 minutes, at the most, from when I got to the ER and was in the Cath Lab."
There, a Lowell General Hospital interventional cardiologist performed primary angioplasty to open the three blocked coronary arteries causing Nowak's heart attack, and placed three stents to prop them open.
"They absolutely saved my life that day," Nowak says. "They told me that one of the blockages was on the left side where they normally don't place stents, but I wouldn't have made it to Boston for open-heart surgery, that I had just minutes left. So they took the biggest stent they had and put it in."
Today, Nowak is doing fine and feeling better than ever, driving a flatbed truck to keep active ("there's a lot of lifting with offloading"). On the weekends, he enjoys construction projects and skiing in the White Mountains.
"I'm lucky to be here. The people at Lowell General are phenomenal." David Nowak